The Rolex Submariner has been a part of the brand’s catalog for well over 60 years, and it is often said that the Submariner is the archetype of the modern dive watch. While the Rolex Submariner was not the absolute first dive watch ever created, it has served as the blueprint for underwater timepieces for over half a century, and virtually all dive watches in existence today were in some way influenced by the design and features of the original Rolex Submariner.
Rolex Submariner Bezel Types & Evolution
Easily among the most famous and recognizable Rolex watches ever created, the Submariner has an overall design that has remained largely unchanged throughout the years. However, the famed Rolex dive watch has undergone plenty of design and mechanical enhancements over the past six decades, including a number of updates and improvements to its all-important rotating timing bezel. Read on to discover all the different types of bezels of the Rolex Submariner.
Case Diameter: 40mm
Materials: Stainless Steel, Yellow Rolesor (steel and gold), 18k Yellow Gold, 18k White Gold
Features: Time + running seconds; date complication (Submariner Date models)
Bezel: 60-minute rotating timing bezel
Crystal: Sapphire Movement: Cal. 3130; Cal. 3135 (Submariner Date)
Water Resistance: 300 meters / 1,000 feet
Bracelet: Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock safety clasp
The Evolution of the Rolex Submariner Bezel
The bezel on a dive watch is designed to allow divers to keep track of elapsed time while they are underwater. To use the Submariner’s bezel, simply rotate the bezel to align the inverted triangle with the minute hand just before a dive (or any other event you want to time). Then, as time elapses, look at where the minute hand is pointing to on the bezel (which is graduated to 60 minutes) and that’ll tell you how many minutes have passed.
Like all Rolex watches, the Submariner has, of course, evolved over the years – particularly in regards to the design of its bezel. Over the course of the Submariner’s history, Rolex has used both bidirectional and unidirectional bezels. Furthermore, Rolex has also used aluminum inserts and Cerachraom (the brand’s proprietary ceramic alloy) inserts for the Submariner’s bezel. Below is a general overview of the various Submariner bezel types used throughout the last 67 years. Note that there is some overlap in years between the aluminum inserts and the ceramic inserts since new Submariner models with Cerachrom bezels were introduced over the course of a four-year period.
1953 – 1979 – Bidirectional rotating bezels with aluminum inserts
1979 – 2012 – Unidirectional rotating bezels with aluminum inserts
2008 – Present – Unidirectional rotating bezels with Cerachrom inserts
Rolex has also tweaked the way that the Submariner bezels have displayed their 60-minute scales. While every Rolex Submariner bezel includes an inverted triangle at 0/60, batons at 5/15/25/35/45/55, and Arabic numerals at 10/20/30/40/50, there have been some modifications in regards to the hash marks that are used to signify individual minutes.
No hash marks – generally found on the earliest examples of vintage Submariners
Hash marks for the first 15 minutes – first appeared around 1957 on some references. Still used today on current Submariners
Hash marks throughout the bezel – Military-issued “MilSub” Submariners only
Some vintage Rolex Submariner references have a red inverted triangle on the bezel to mark the 0/60 minute location. Over the years, the red coloring was prone to fading, and certain vintage Submariner watches that originally had red triangle bezel inserts now appear to have standard black and silver ones. Additionally, due to their short period of production, surviving red triangle bezels are now highly prized by collectors. Below is a list of some of the Rolex Submariner references that can be found with red triangle bezel inserts.
Submariner 6536/1 – Some examples had them and some did not
Submariner 6538 –
Submariner 5510 –
Submariner 5508 – Early examples only, eventually replaced with a silver triangle
Submariner 5512 – Early examples only, eventually replaced with a silver triangle
Although the original Submariner models only came with black bezels, when Rolex introduced a solid yellow gold reference in the late 1960s, a blue-colored bezel (and dial) became an option on the brand’s dive watch for the very first time. The Rolex Submariner has benefitted from three different colored bezels through its history. However, these bezel colors are not available across all case materials.
Black Submariner bezels – Stainless steel, yellow gold, two-tone steel/yellow gold cases only
Blue Submariner bezels – White gold, yellow gold, two-tone steel/yellow gold cases only
Green Submariner bezels – Stainless steel cases only
Rolex Submariner models that offer more than one bezel color option will typically have letters at the end of the reference numbers to denote the color of the bezel. These letters are abbreviations of French words, which translate to the following:
LN = Lunette Noir = Black Bezel
LB = Lunette Bleu – Blue Bezel
LV – Lunette Verte – Green Bezel
Rolex Submariner Bidirectional Bezels With Aluminum Inserts
When Rolex debuted the Submariner in 1953, the stainless steel dive watch included a rotating bezel marked to 60 minutes to allow divers to track immersion times. The steel bezel turned both ways for simple timing and adjustment, the edge of the bezel was knurled for easy gripping underwater, and the insert was fashioned from anodized black aluminum.
The printed 60-minute scale on the earlier versions included markings for every 5 minutes, alternating between batons and Arabic numerals. By the late 1950s, Rolex started to include hash marks for the first 15 minutes on the bezel to facilitate a more precise reading, followed by 5-minute markings for the rest of it.
Around 1969, Rolex introduced the first yellow gold Submariner, the Rolex Submariner Date ref. 1680/8. Accordingly, the knurled rotating bezel ring was fashioned from 18k yellow gold. Additionally, the Rolex Submariner ref. 1680/8 now offered the choice of a black or blue aluminum bezel insert.
Submariner References With Bidirectional Aluminum Bezels
|Reference||Approximate Production Dates||Case Material||Bezel||Hash Marks|
|Submariner 6204||1953||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||None|
|Submariner 6205||1954||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||None|
|Submariner 6200||1955 – 1956||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||None|
|Submariner 6538||1956 – 1959||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||None or First 15-Minute|
|Submariner 6536/1||1956 – 1958||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||None or First 15-Minute|
|Submariner 5510||1958||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||First 15-Minute|
|Submariner 5508||1958 – 1962||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||First 15-Minute|
|Submariner 5512||1959 – 1980||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||First 15-Minute|
|Submariner 5513||1962 – 1989||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||First 15-Minute|
|Submariner 5513 Milsub||1972 – 1976||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||All the way around|
|Submariner 5514 COMEX||1972 – 1978||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||First 15-Minute|
|Submariner Date 1680||1969 – 1979||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum||First 15-Minute|
|Submariner Date 1680/8||1969 – 1979||18k Yellow Gold||Black or Blue Aluminum||First 15-Minute|
Rolex Submariner Unidirectional Bezels With Aluminum Inserts
While bidirectional rotating bezels may be easier for wearers to quickly turn to the appropriate spot, in terms of their function as a dive bezel, it’s not the best option. If the bezel gets accidentally knocked, this could cause divers to miscalculate how long they have been underwater. Therefore, a unidirectional bezel is more prudent because any accidental knocks to the bezel can only result in overestimating immersion time — it’s better to take an unnecessary safety stop on your way to the surface, rather than being under the impression that you do not need to take one and suffering from decompression sickness as a result.
Rolex began equipping the Submariner with unidirectional bezels starting with the Submariner Date ref. 16800, which was first introduced around 1979. With that in mind, the classic, no-date Submariner model did not receive a unidirectional bezel until 1990 with the introduction of the Rolex Submariner ref. 14060.
Like the previous generation, the new unidirectional bezels included anodized aluminum bezel inserts. In 1983, Rolex introduced the first two-tone Submariner model in the form of the Submariner Date ref. 16803, which sported a yellow gold knurled bezel ring fitted with a black or blue aluminum insert. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Submariner in 2003, Rolex introduced the stainless steel Submariner Date ref. 16610LV with a green bezel insert (also crafted from anodized aluminum).
Submariner References With Unidirectional Aluminum Bezels
|Reference||Approximate Production Dates||Case Material||Bezel|
|Submariner Date 16800||1979 – 1988||Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum|
|Submariner Date 16808||1979 – 1988||18k Yellow Gold||Black or Blue Aluminum|
|Submariner Date 16803||1983 – 1988||Two-Tone Stainless Steel and Yellow Gold||Black or Blue Aluminum|
|Submariner Date 168000||1987 – 1988||904L Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum|
|Submariner Date 16610||1988 – 2010||904L Stainless Steel||Black or Green Aluminum|
|Submariner Date 16618||1988 – 2008||18k Yellow Gold||Black or Blue Aluminum|
|Submariner Date 16613||1988 – 2009||Two-Tone Stainless Steel and Yellow Gold||Black or Blue Aluminum|
|Submariner 14060||1990 – 1998||904L Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum|
|Submariner 14060M||1998 – 2012||904L Stainless Steel||Black Aluminum|
Rolex Submariner Unidirectional Bezels With Cerachrom Inserts
In 2008, Rolex introduced the first Submariner models equipped with unidirectional bezels featuring Cerachrom inserts. Cerachrom is Rolex’s proprietary ceramic alloy that is not only highly resistant to scratching but also virtually impervious to fading. The 60-minute graduations are engraved into the bezel and then the ceramic bezel insert is fully coated with either 18k yellow gold (for yellow gold and two-tone models) or 950 platinum (for white gold or steel models). The gold/platinum is then polished away from the ceramic surface until only the recessed numerals and markings are left with the precious metal filling.
By 2012, Rolex had rolled out the new Cerachrom bezels across all Submariner models, replacing the previous generation of aluminum bezel inserts entirely. Additionally, color options for Rolex’s new ceramic bezels include black, blue, and green, and all of these are current-production Rolex Submariner models.
Submariner References With Unidirectional Cerachrom Bezels
|Reference||Introduction Year||Case Material||Bezel|
|Submariner Date 116619||2008||18k White Gold||Blue Cerachrom|
|Submariner Date 116618||2008||18k Yellow Gold||Black or Blue Cerachrom|
|Submariner Date 116613||2009||Two-Tone Stainless Steel and Yellow Gold||Black or Blue Cerachrom|
|Submariner Date 116610||2010||904L Stainless Steel aka Oystersteel||Black or Green Cerachrom|
|Submariner 114060||2012||904L Stainless Steel aka Oystersteel||Black Cerachrom|
Rolex Submariner Gem-Set Bezels
Although the rotating bezel serves to measure elapsed time while diving, this has not stopped Rolex from making a few ultra-lavish Submariner watches with precious gem-set bezels that forsakes the original tool watch nature of the model. First, there’s the white gold Submariner 116649 EMBR (presented in 2010) featuring a bezel set with 36 emeralds and 12 diamonds. Then in 2018, Rolex introduced the white gold Submariner 116659 SABR with a bezel set with nine light blue sapphires (to mimic the first 15-minute markings), 27 dark blue sapphires, and 12 diamonds (to mimic the 5-minute markings found on standard Rolex Submariner bezel inserts).
Rolex Submariner Bezel Nicknames
Although the bezel of the Rolex Submariner has been black in color for most of the watch’s existence, the various colored options have picked up informal nicknames among members of the collecting community. The bezel of the Rolex Submariner is such a distinctive part of the watch’s overall look that many of them have paved the way for now-ubiquitous Submariner nicknames.
“Kermit” – Submariner ref. 16610LV with a green aluminum bezel
“Hulk” – Submariner ref. 116610LV with a green Cerachrom bezel
“Smurf” – Submariner ref. 116610LB with a blue Cerachrom bezel
“Bluesy” – Submariner ref. 16803 and 16613 with a blue aluminum bezel or 116613LB with a blue Cerachrom bezel
“Ghost” – Any vintage Submariner with highly faded aluminum bezels
From bidirectional aluminum bezels to unidirectional aluminum bezels to today’s high-tech Cerachrom bezel, the Rolex Submariner bezel has evolved significantly and steadily over the years. However, what has remained the same is the importance of the bezel – both to the overall look and functionality of the iconic Rolex Submariner.